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Driving Tired,  Falling Asleep at the Wheel

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It is not entirely known how many deadly crashes are caused by drivers falling asleep, because regretfully, many sleeping drivers don't live to explain why they crashed.

In doing research for this site, I have come across some very moving stories about the lives and deaths of teens I never have, nor will ever have, the pleasure of meeting. One of these stories was about a young man from West Plains, MO. While I could tell his story, let me leave that to a friend, and his basketball coach.

(from a website of a friend with the handle "~Smuggler-Of-Mos-Espa" - Caution to family and friends. The description of the crash is graphic, and may be hurtful.)
Black Tears and Wretched Thunder
Journal Entry: Thu May 17, 2007, 7:54 PM

Last Saturday morning a friend of mine passed away. He was in my graduating class a little over a year ago. When he was in school, he was a star basketball player. When he was diagnosed with cancer, our entire community stood behind him and shaved our heads to avoid making him feel alone when he lost his hair. He beat cancer, grew his hair out again, and thanks to the community's fund raising he had no debts to pay.

He was always cool to everybody, and I never heard of him making an enemy. He always stuck up for the little guy, the one who couldn't defend himself when bullies came around. I wasn't close enough to know the man's every inner-thought, but he had no dirty secrets to hide in the first place. He didn't worry himself with the mandatory high school gossip bull s--t, and I thought that was so awesome.

On Friday, he hung out with some of his old buddies for Project Graduation (which, in short, is a program made by the school to give graduates and anyone else who wants to come some clean after-graduation fun, or whatever). He stayed up until pretty late that night with a few of his old basketball comrades, and then went home at around 3:00 AM to drop off his brother's car and catch up on a few hours of sleep before work.

He got up at around 5:00 AM to get ready, and left at around 6:00 in his truck. He was on his way into town and fell asleep at one of the stoplights (which was still before daylight). His truck accelerated with his foot still on the pedal, and crashed into the concrete base of another stoplight going at around 45 MPH (which really isn't that fast, if you think about it).

The truck's motor ended up going through his torso, along with everything else in front and behind of that. Minus breaking his jaw, his face was unharmed. He died in his sleep, and I'm glad he didn't feel any pain. His long-time best friend and co-worker, Goob, was the first on the scene. It took the first-responders two hours to cut his broken body out of his totaled truck.

Now, how in the f--- can a guy who went through hell to beat cancer die in such a sh---y way? I mean, we were all so terrified his cancer would come back and take him away, but we wouldn't have imagined anything like this would. He was so young; he was my age, 19. The funeral drew hundreds, and if anything, I'm so glad his poor mother saw the awesome difference his son made in such a small town. No one showed up because he was a friend of a friend like most funerals; everyone there loved him and had a reason to be there.

I've seen plenty of death, and after a while, you think you don't really care anymore. Then again, when something like this happens, it always hits home.

Cory Lee Parrish, this is for you man. You deserved a free pass after all you went through, and you'll be sorely missed. Just as your brother stood up and said before people paid their final respects at your casket, you should be remembered by your life, not your death. Rest in Peace, Cory.

In memory of Cory…
Coach Roger Turner, Bakersfield High School

On May 12, one of “my boys” lost a young and promising life. Cory Parrish was a good boy – loyal, dedicated, unselfish. He was a fine man. I shall miss him a lot.

Memories come back to me about Cory, the grin on his face when he would needle me about the music I listened to in my car, the sly look when I would tell him in practice he couldn’t guard a fence post, how he cried in my arms in the locker room after the district championship game his senior year. Cory also protected those close to him. When he thought I was teasing his good friend Ira too hard, he let me know. When I gave Cory the “live strong” bracelet I wore for months, he immediately put it on his wrist.

In trying to teach the basketball players at Bakersfield what it means to be a real team, a true team, a team that is willing to sacrifice personal goals for the goals of the team, where each player cares for and loves every member of the team that plays hard and plays together, I had many discussions with them and showed many things to them trying to get that point across. One of them was the movie, “Black Hawk Down.” Many times in that movie, the phrase “No one gets left behind” is mentioned and we talked about what that phrase means in becoming a great team.

The boys took that as their rally cry when Cory was diagnosed with cancer. One of the boys suggested we shave our heads as a tribute to Cory and we did. Cory squeezed my hand very tightly as I walked him to the operating room, I tried my best to be brave for him.

At visitation, Cory’s brother Kyle held me and tried his best to be brave for me. I covered for Cory, Kyle covered for me, a characteristic of a true team and true comrades. To me, Cory was the epitome of that kind of unselfish spirit. Many times he sacrificed his game for the team.

As in the case of my brother, I can’t see the reason why such a fine young man dies with so much life left to live. But like the scene in “Black Hawk Down” reminds me, it is not left up to me.

Somehow, we need to make peace with the demons of torment regarding Cory’s death. Let’s all remember that because Cory was such a fighter, we received two more years to enjoy him. It was an honor and privilege to have coached him. It was an honor and privilege to watch him grow into a fine young man.

I shall miss him a lot.

courtesy Ozark County Times

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 of reported crashes occur as a result of drowsiness, and considers sleep deprived drivers a hazard equal in severity to drunk drivers. Those crashes result in an estimated 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries each year, and an annual monetary loss of approximately $12.5 billion. Studies show that staying awake for 18 hours and driving produces the same effect as being legally drunk behind the wheel. The greater the sleep deprivation, the closer the correlation to higher levels of intoxication.....A study conducted by Farmer's Insurance found that 10 percent of drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel and 20 percent admitted to momentarily dozing off..... Ford Motor company performed a study that painted a sobering picture of the potential for damage. Ford found that a driver sleeping even 2.5 seconds in a car traveling 70 mph covers the length of one football field.

July 8, 2008
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Yukon woman in Route 31 crash dies

A Yukon woman was killed in a two-vehicle accident Sunday afternoon on Route 31 in East Huntingdon when a 17-year-old driver crossed the centerline and struck the car in which she was riding, police said..... An eastbound Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by an unidentified teen from McKeesport crashed into the front passenger side of the Atkinson vehicle. The teen allegedly told police he fell asleep while driving.

June 27, 2008
Detroit Free Press
Teen killed in crash on I-696

A 16-year-old died after the Michigan Department of Transportation minivan she was sitting in on the shoulder of I-696 westbound in Southfield was hit by an SUV at about 1:30 p.m., according to Michigan State Police. Lt. Shannon Sims said a 60-year-old man, driving a Ford Excursion, fell asleep, veered off the highway near the Lahser exit and slammed into the minivan, which the 16-year-old and a 19-year-old man were sitting in.

June 25, 2008
San Diego Union-Tribune
Victim in solo crash identified as Ohio teen, sailor

The man killed in a solo-car crash that sparked a brush fire in East County last week has been identified by family members as 19-year-old Joseph Larsen of Middletown, Ohio.... The family believes Larsen fell asleep at the wheel as he neared the end of his cross-country drive. He was the only person in the car.

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Also read a memorial for two Misouri teens by a grieving mother